Gender and cancer support group participation

Cancer Pract. Mar-Apr 1999;7(2):86-92. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-5394.1999.07206.x.


Purpose: Although support groups are offered to many patients who have received a diagnosis of cancer, a majority of patients choose not to participate. This article reports the results of a study comparing the behavior of men diagnosed with prostate cancer and women diagnosed with breast cancer in their responses to invitations to participate in support groups.

Description of study: One hundred thirty women with breast cancer and 87 men with prostate cancer completed a structured telephone interview. The interview included questions about the patients' choices about support group participation.

Results: Interview findings showed that men are less likely to join a support group, but those men who do join attend meetings for about 1 year, as do the women who join. Men and women cite essentially the same reasons for participation: to learn more about their diagnosis, to share their, concerns to compare their physical and emotional progress with other individuals.

Clinical implications: These results indicate the need for further exploration of effective interventions for men and women who have been diagnosed with prostate and breast cancer, respectively, in an effort to offer support for the difficult psychological and emotional issues associated with their diagnoses. Although more women than men join support groups, the majority of both populations (67% for women, 87% for men) do not attend any support group meetings. Innovative approaches are needed to encourage participation in existing support groups or to design alternative interventions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Decision Making
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Men / psychology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Self-Help Groups / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Women / psychology*